Observing Los Angeles

Advice for Mayor Garcetti from Bruce Katz

city-illo-lamag.jpgBruce Katz is vice president of the Brookings Institution and founder and co-director of the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. He contributes to The Atlantic Cities and has written a book, with Brookings Fellow Jennifer Bradley, called "The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy." So he thinks a lot about cities and in a recent conversation with Los Angeles magazine had some thoughts for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

The questions are from Shayna Rose Arnold of the magazine staff:

Are there other things Eric Garcetti should be doing to maximize his political power and the growth of Los Angeles?

New mayors have just been through a political campaign, so they need to take a breath and they need to get their staff organized and set the broader strategies for their tenure. He’s obviously been doing those things. I think the bottom line for American cities is, if you want to thrive you need to pay attention to several things: Is your work force skilled and educated for the jobs that actually exist? There’s still a lot of manufacturing in Los Angeles and still a lot of technology jobs in Los Angeles. Are your high schools and your community colleges supplying workers to those forces? Also, infrastructure: [Former Mayor] Villaraigosa made I think enormous strides on infrastructure, particularly around transit with Measure R. Can you build on that success? Roads, transit, port, airport, energy distribution, water and sewers—those are the infrastructures that make cities move and thrive. Lastly, innovation: Are you an innovative economy? Are your research institutions and major sectors of the economy constantly pushing the envelope? If not, someone else will, either in the United States or abroad. My sense is Mayor Garcetti and the other business civic leaders understand that. The question is what will be the game changing initiatives that evolve in Los Angeles over the next several years that looking back 30 years from now, folks will say really helped put us on a new course.

What about everyday citizens? What can we do to keep L.A. competitive like the thriving cities you’re studying?

Individual citizens can do many things. They can voice their support or opposition. They can participate, not just in elections but between elections, and become informed and energetic citizens. At the neighborhood level they can be a major part of growing livable, walkable, quality communities. So much of what we want in the United States today, particularly with our demographic shifts, is to build communities where we’re not spending an hour-and-a-half in the car, which isolates us from our family and undermines our economic competitiveness. The laying of a backbone of transit in Los Angeles, which is one of the most residentially dense metropolitan areas in the country, I think creates an opportunity to grow a very different physical space in Los Angeles. But this is not jus the work of planners, it’s the work of citizens. I tend to think of Wilshire Boulevard and other corridors as the main corridors of Los Angeles. So what does Wilshire Boulevard look like 25 years from now?

The conversation goes in more interesting directions.

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